Kaka'ako Eats: Goma Tei Ramen Restaurant

Taking the first bite of Goma Tei’s Charsiu Tan Tan Ramen

Goma Tei Ramen Restaurant has been around in Ward Center for a number of years now, and has already been reviewed by several bloggers out there, along with many more user reviews on Yelp. Yet there’s always room for another review right here on The Tasty Island, as I finally made it there to taste for myself if they’re as great as many folks proclaim them to be.

We stopped by for an early dinner the other day around 5pm, beating the peak post-6pm dinner rush, so getting a table (actually a counter stool) wasn’t a problem. I’ve heard this place can really pack a crowd during peak hours.

Before we get to the grindz, let’s check out the restaurant. Like most ramen shops, the dominant feature is a server-centralized dining counter making up the heartbeat of the establishment…

Goma Tei Ramen Restaurant in Ward Center

Notice there’s not just one, not two, but THREE servers on duty in this moderately-sized restaurant, which clearly tells you this place can get VERY BUSY.

There’s also four 4-place tables on the side if you prefer a little more privacy…

Goma Tei Ramen Restaurant in Ward Center

As you see, the decor takes on a clean, contemporary asian flare, with warm, rather cozy ambient lighting. Very nice.

The usual Ramen Shop condiments (shoyu, rice vinegar and chili sauce), hashi and some beer specials…

Now let’s check out the menu (click on image to enlarge it for easier reading)…

Read those reviews I linked to earlier, and you’ll see the hit dish (err, bowl) here is the Tan Tan Ramen, which is quite obvious being it’s the first item listed on the menu.

That said, my girlfriend ordered the Charsiu Tan Tan Ramen, which is the same as the Tan Tan Ramen, except you get three (very generous!) slices of Charsiu instead of just one…

Goma Tei – Charsiu Tan Tan Ramen, $8.75

Tan Tan is described on the menu as “Japanese style soup broth with spicy sesame flavor”. Hence the name of the restaurant ‘Goma Tei’.

I stuck by my guns and went with my usual Shoyu Ramen, also opting for the Charsiu version…

Goma Tei – Charsiu Shoyu Ramen – $8.50

Oooh, that looks OISHII!

Instead of ordering the usual Gyoza on the side, my girlfriend (who’s been here before) highly recommended I try their Chicken Tastutaage…

Goma Tei – Chicken Tatsutaage, $6.75

OK, we need another “Best Fried Chicken in Hawaii” contest held once again, because this Chicken Tastutaage is ABSOLUTELY IN IT TO WIN IT! Man, this stuff is AWESOME! I’m usually not one for chicken, but this I can make compromise for. You have to order this if you visit Goma Tei. Winnah!

I don’t know if you can see here just how moist the chicken is within the heavily textured and thick golden brown batter crust, but it is!…

Chicken Tatsutaage – cutaway view (very moist and packed with flavor!)

The (very nice!) sauce accompanying it taste sort of like Tonkatsu sauce, except a little more spicy hot and more tomato-based…

The batter and or the chicken itself has some added flavors in it, which IIRC, was a hint of shoyu (with perhaps a little sugar), sesame and togarashi. It was rather complex, but the sum of it was an absolutely dynamite-tasting fried chicken. Highly recommended dish.

Now let’s take a closer look (and taste) of the Charsiu Tan Tan Ramen my girlfriend ordered…

I’d say the best way to describe the Tan Tan broth is that it’s like a thickened Tonkotsu broth, with the addition of sesame oil and a noticeable splash of heat provided by a rather generous sprinkling of Togarashi. If you look closely you can visually see specks of Togarashi, as well as the separating beads of the sesame oil (and fat) in the broth. It’s certainly packed with both flavor and texture (thickness), and would probably be an even better “hangover waker-upper” than the Shoyu Ramen.

For me, the Tan Tan is excellent in its own right, but a little too busy for my personal taste.  Still, my girlfriend absolutely loved it,  giving the Charsiu Tan Tan Ramen here at Goma Tei a solid 4 SPAM Musubi, almost 5!

I’m still loyal to a great bowl of Japanese shoyu ramen, and with that tried Goma Tei’s take on the dish…

Charsiu Shoyu Ramen

First of all the ramen noodles, where like Ramen Nakamura, who I’m guessing used Sun Noodle, the ones served at Goma Tei are in fact Sun Noodle, as confirmed by one of the servers. Nothing wrong with that, as Sun makes an EXCELLENT product.

As for the Shoyu broth? EXCELLENT, excellent. Very deep and complex. While not quite there yet with my favorite ramen shop in the Ginza, it’s a mighty fine representation of the genre and should be worthy of respect even to those from Japan. A FANTASTIC Shoyu Ramen broth.

But if you ask me, the broths here are practically the side attraction. Really the star of this show are these generous slices of Charsiu…

Goma Tei – Charsiu (in Shoyu Ramen)

OMG, they’re AWWWWWWWESOMMMME! Unlike any charsiu I’ve had before. Just look at how thick they’re sliced…

That’s about a 5/8″ thick slice. Take out your ruler and you’ll see exactly how substantial these rolled-up slabs of Charsiu heaven are. You can also see they’re rolled up pork, which I think is the ever-so-flavorful pork belly.

Now look at how tender they are, where as I try to grab it with my chopsticks, they just fall apart…

What that last photo above also may help depict is the amazing amount of flavor encrusting each Charsiu morsel. Like the Chicken Tastutaage, the Charsiu also had a complex spice profile just on the outter part of it, so when you bite into it,  it just explodes with flavor like an “awakening” lol. You can’t help but open your eyes in appeasement of what you just put in your mouth. So, so, so delicious.

There were a few slivers of Negi here and there, but being a Negi fan, I could have stood to have a little more. The choy sum was a nice color (and health!) touch, but flavorwise, forgettable and not necessarily what I’d say a great match with these particlar ramen. But I love Choy Sum, don’t get me wrong.

What was noticeably amiss was Menma (marinated Bamboo shoots), which is one of my priority ramen garnishes. Yet I’ll let that go this time, as Goma Tei’s absolutely amazing Charsiu (three thick pieces of it its namesake version) more than made up for that shortcoming.

Here’s a spread that would look good to just about anyone after an exhausting day at work…

Goma Tei Chicken Tastutaage, Charsiu Shoyu Ramen and and ice cold Kirin Draft

Ah yes… a great bowl of ramen, an amazing side dish of Japanese style fried chicken, a cold glass of Kirin draft, my girlfriend by my side, plus work for the day is over.  Life at this moment in time is GREAT!

Being it was slow, service was very quick and friendly on our visit to Goma Tei, yet with the amount of staff on duty, I’m sure they’re on top things even with a full house.

Goma Tei now has two locations: the one we visited is on the ground floor of Ward Center, with a newer sister restaurant in Ala Moana Center on the street level, makai side, heading towards Macy’s.

Goma Tei Ramen Restaurant in Ward Center

Goma Tei Ramen Restaurant
Ward Center
1200 Ala Moana Boulevard
Tel. 591-9188

Business hours:
Monday – Saturday 11am to 9:15pm (last call)
Sunday 11:30am to 8:15pm (last call)

The Tasty Island rating:

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)

Related Links:
Goma Tei Ramen Restaurant – ‘Ono Kine Grindz review
Ramen Hunt Part I – Goma Tei – Hawaii Metblogs
Goma Tei – Epicurean Appetite
Goma Tei Ramen Restaurant – Yelp user reviews


15 thoughts on “Kaka'ako Eats: Goma Tei Ramen Restaurant

  1. Thanks Pomai,
    This is also my favorite Ramen shop in Hawaii. Love the chicken too. You should warn your readers that they better let it cool off for a few minutes because it comes out HOT.

  2. Pomai, I like to try Japanese style ramen places and since you gave it a 4 musubis it must be very good . I guess not into spam type of ramen . Will try the chicken dish look so awesome. I always ordered charsui ramen but will taste other dishes in this place.

  3. I gotta agree, this place rocks. I tried it almost by accident once on one of my overnighter gigs over there. I will certainly be back!

  4. Wow, can’t get over the thickness of the char-siu slices. What I like is that they don’t put that bright red dye into the char-siu.

    I MUST plan another trip back home soon and put this on my list of places to eat. Not sure when I’ll find time to visit family, since I’ll be so busy eating. 🙂

  5. Pomai, I guess Jenny thought Japanese charsui is the same as the Chinese type. Chinese roast their and Japanese is simmer in a season sauce not roasted at all. See web on Japanese char sui recipe.

  6. Kelike, thanks for pointing that out. I posted a (basic) recipe and demo’ on making Japanese Chashu (Charsiu) for ramen a while ago here:


    Jenny, Japanese Chashu doesn’t taste at all like Chinese Charsiu. That’s what makes Hawaii’s own “Saimin” interesting. It’s total melting pot dish (bowl) of Chinese and Japanese (and sometimes American in the case where they use luncheon meat instead of Charsiu) influence.

    What’s different about Goma Tei’s Chashu (as I pointed out) is that they makes theirs from rolled-up pork belly (I think) instead of using a solid cut of loin. They also have some kind of additional spices flavoring it. Like a dry-rub. I think. That’s what it tasted like.

    Marcus, rock they do!

    Michael, definitely hit Goma Tei. Highly recommended.

    Garrett, you’re right! Good point. The Tastutaage Chicken did arrive PIPING HOT straight outta’ the fryer. A scorcher! We had to let it cool a few minutes before eating it. In fact, it arrived AFTER our ramen arrived, meaning it took longer to prepare (deep fry). So readers beware: if you visit Goma Tei and order the Chicken Tastutaage, WAIT a few minutes to let it cool down!

    Okihwn, I don’t recall ever having a Seafood Ramen before, but the one offered at Goma Tei sounds oishii! Shrimps, Scallops and Calamari…wow! I think that’s what I’m gonna order on my next visit there as well.

  7. Oops, pardon me! I grew up in Honolulu but I must not have eaten enough authentic Japanese food. I ate a lot of authentic Chinese, since that’s my family background, but the main extent of my Japanese cuisine education came from eating upstairs at Shirokiya. Thanks for the education.

  8. I’ve walked by that place a few times and never stopped in, but these pics of Charsiu are making me hungry!

    I’m off to Japan for 10 days and can’t wait to eat authentic Japanese food! I might have to eat every 3 hours to try all the great food in Tokyo and Kyoto.

  9. Oh jeeze… those photos are just…*sigh* That just looks like ramen/fried chicken heaven. The broth looks fantastic and the charsiu is mesmerizing with its swirls of fatty deliciousness. The fried chicken alone is worth buying a ticket and flying out there for lunch.

  10. Hawaii Real Estate Guy; That’s what I do EVERY time I go to Japan on concert tours! I always see it as an eating tour, with a show thrown in every now and then, just for fun. ;o)

    There’s just so much great food over there.

  11. sagemom, just go in and try it. It’s very reasonably priced.

    Marcus, so funny how you say it’s more like going on a eating tour with a concert thrown in between, than the other way around. Now THAT’s a great attitude! Indeed, Japan has got to be by far my ultimate “Foodie Paradise”.

    Wasabi Prime, when you do make it to Honolulu, I’d absolutely put Goma Tei on your must-do eating itinerary. Excellent.

    Hawaii Real Estate Guy, I’m so envious of you! Here’s to all the great Ramen shops you’ll probably try while you’re there!

    Jenny, Okihwn sent me a FANTASTIC Chashu (Japanese style Charsiu for Ramen) recipe. If you want, I can forward it to you.

  12. I’m back from Japan. Wow tiring trip with 3 kids and wife. …the 3 kids are tiring, not wife 🙂

    had some great food, also had some bad food. let’s see, 10 days, 2 meals out a day average, some days 3. That’s about 25 meals out. I would say half were just ok, 1/4 were bad, 1/4 were AWESOME.

    Some best – in Asakusa, there is a Ramen place just across from Grandmas house. WOW. awesome ramen for 400yen, about $4.50 US.

    also a great old place in Kyoto, couldn’t find it again probably, but near the Gimmond Hotel. Incredible old style Japanese food for about $10 each.

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